Chaos and Life: Complexity and Order in Evolution and Thought – Richard J Bird (book, 2003)

source:

Chaos and Life | Columbia University Press
Chaos and Life

PUB DATE: November 2003

ISBN: 9780231126625

352 pages

FORMAT: Hardcover

LIST PRICE: $65.00£54.00ADD TO CART

PUB DATE: November 2003

ISBN: 9780231501552

352 pages

FORMAT: E-book

LIST PRICE: $64.99£54.00GET THE E-BOOK

Chaos and Life: Complexity and Order in Evolution and Thought

Richard J. Bird

Columbia University Press

Why, in a scientific age, do people routinely turn to astrologers, mediums, cultists, and every kind of irrational practitioner rather than to science to meet their spiritual needs? The answer, according to Richard J. Bird, is that science, especially biology, has embraced a view of life that renders meaningless the coincidences, serendipities, and other seemingly significant occurrences that fill people’s everyday existence.

Evolutionary biology rests on the assumption that although events are fundamentally random, some are selected because they are better adapted than others to the surrounding world. This book proposes an alternative view of evolving complexity. Bird argues that randomness means not disorder but infinite order. Complexity arises not from many random events of natural selection (although these are not unimportant) but from the “playing out” of chaotic systems—which are best described mathematically. When we properly understand the complex interplay of chaos and life, Bird contends, we will see that many events that appear random are actually the outcome of order.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard J. Bird is visiting scholar and sometime senior lecturer at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. He is past president of the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences.

a nice mini-review given by Michael Garfield (edited by me to remove specifics of the conversation):

With respect to “where does complexity exist”, I wonder who has read Richard Bird’s Chaos & Life?

http://cup.columbia.edu/book/chaos-and-life/9780231126625

“Evolutionary biology rests on the assumption that although events are fundamentally random, some are selected because they are better adapted than others to the surrounding world. This book proposes an alternative view of evolving complexity. Bird argues that randomness means not disorder but infinite order. Complexity arises not from many random events of natural selection (although these are not unimportant) but from the ‘playing out’ of chaotic systems—which are best described mathematically. When we properly understand the complex interplay of chaos and life, Bird contends, we will see that many events that appear random are actually the outcome of order.”

Since reading this book I’ve taken complexity not to be emergent in some kind of “Bottom-Up Great Chain of Being” sense but as potentially just order imported from an environment that APPEARS random because we’re either incapable of adequate granularity to tease apart causation in stochastic micro-systems (like “random” mutations, which is in my opinion very successfully interrogated by the interaction-based evolutionary theory of Haifa University’s Adi Livnat, in which gene regulatory complexes “learn” just like neural networks) or the macro-systems in which we are embedded are too vast for us to understand (we can’t pay enough attention to grasp hyperobjects).In other words, we’re evolved to coarse-grain the world in a way that hides complexity at the micro AND macro scales, and in a weird sense, complexity IS homogeneous in one key way even if it’s importantly NOT to any given relative observer.

source:

Chaos and Life | Columbia University Press